Are new black channels trying to be the anti-BET?

OPINION - Certainly, the need for Legacy TV that focuses on black history and biographies of leaders is sorely needed in the African-American community...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

Former comedian and television personality Byron Allen recently announced that he would be launching a new high-definition channel for African-Americans called Legacy TV that will primarily focus on black history and biographies of African-American leaders.

Similarly this week, former BET executive Curtis Symonds promulgated that he, along with other industry veterans, would be initiating the HBCU Network this summer, which will highlight sports and education-related content relative to HBCUs.

And, earlier this year, former UN ambassador Andrew Young and Martin Luther King III also disclosed that they would also be casting “the first ever 24/7 broadcast television network for African-Americans called Bounce TV.

Click here to view a slideshow of highlights from the 2011 BET Awards

This network, which is expected to initiate this fall, reportedly will feature news programming, live sports and events from the nation’s largest African-American athletic conference, the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) tournament, exclusive movies, inspirational faith-based programs, etc.

Since the promulgation of the above mentioned news, there has been a vast range of opinions marked with strong dichotomy. Some critics wholeheartedly believe that there is no need for new African-American television networks, since BET already covers current events, cultural trends, entertainment and other important topics from a black perspective.

Conversely, there are certain commentators who think that new black channels like Legacy TV, HBCU Network and Bounce TV are necessary to fill voids associated with BET and to help ensure that stories of importance to the black community get more exposure. Who is right in their assessment?

First, in examining the opinions of the critics of Legacy TV, HBCU Network and Bounce TV, one has to consider whether BET has voids that could be filled with new and upcoming black networks. Without equivocation, BET has been the standard in black television programming for over 30 years. Diverse and intelligent shows over the years like Video Soul with Donnie Simpson and Sherri Carter, Bobby Jones Gospel, Weekly with Ed Gordon, BET Tonight with Tavis Smiley, Teen Summit, Rap City, The Game and The Mo’Nique Show, amongst others, have graced our homes. And, annual shows like the BET Awards and Celebration of Gospel never seem to be devoid of great performances and surprises. However, it is relatively safe to state that BET’s decision to get rid of some of its more socially and educationally-relevant programs over the years has left many individuals frustrated and allowed opportunities for networks like TV One and the Africa Channel to pick up many of these viewers who frankly quit watching BET.

Should TV One and the Africa Channel be considered as “anti-BET” channels? I would carefully opine, yes. Though the underlying impetus for these networks may not be focused on being against BET, I believe that that in their own uniqueness of nostalgic and affirmative shows and documentaries, these respective networks do fill certain voids and appear to offer more constructive programming than BET presently does.

Theoretically, one would hope that Legacy TV, HBCU Network and Bounce TV will uplift, enlighten and uplift children, young adults and adults and shed light on the truth and facts — even when it is unpleasant and unpopular — as it relates to blacks on a global basis.

Certainly, the need for Legacy TV that focuses on black history and biographies of leaders is sorely needed in the African-American community. Generally speaking, many of our youth are significantly devoid of black history, which is oftentimes viewed as anti-white studies in certain places. If Legacy TV can provide documentaries on unsung and well-known African and African-American leaders, the ancient kingdoms, kings and queens of Africa, slavery, the role of blacks during the Civil War, Reconstruction, World War I and II, the Harlem Renaissance and other great legacies that have been purposefully untold or misconstrued, then why should it not exist?

Relative to Bounce TV, if it can provide more faith-based programs that will help to nurture and build individuals spiritually and offer value-adding television journalism that focuses on issues affecting the black community, then its existence should prove beneficial. And, regarding HBCU Network, if it can offer educational programming geared toward young adults and help HBCUs financially with a certain percentage of all revenues from the network, then it should be well worth it.

On the whole, I am optimistic that these three new television networks will be value-adding and beneficial to viewers across the board and will do their best to ensure that our perspectives are represented. If Legacy TV, HBCU Network and Bounce TV only perpetuate stereotypes and solely focus on crime, entertainment and celebrity news instead of broader evergreen interests, then it would be safe to state that these ventures were a waste of effort and time.